The Return of Messiah : Part 1
Hope is a little word, but it has powerful effects. We sometimes say, “As long as there’s life, there’s hope.” We often use it in the context of physical injuries or serious illness. But I’ve also heard the statement reversed, “As long as there’s hope, there’s life.” Think about that.
In 2020, the world was ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. Government, medicine, academia, and the media made the situation worse by their totalitarian responses and by withholding information and suppressing information. There were forced lockdowns and masking that destroyed many social interactions. People suffered from the lack of human contact, especially the elderly. Children were developmentally stunted by their isolation.
The media was filled with constant, breathless apocalyptic warnings. Freedoms of speech and assembly were canceled, and people’s reputations and livelihoods were destroyed. All these things added to a pandemic that already existed, a pandemic of hopelessness.
Every day the news media is filled with climate change hysteria, warnings of over-population, economic disparity, racial animosity, gender dysphoria, and many other issues. Governments and media use these issues to divide people into classes and create hopelessness, fear, and dependency.
People try to escape their feelings of hopelessness by living in a fantasy world, abusing drugs and alcohol, and even pursuing spiritism. It’s not surprising then that suicide rates in the developed world are astronomical and climbing. In the United States in 2022, more than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses. The loss of hope leads to despair.
I read recently of a person who has been through numerous surgeries in an attempt to change their gender. As a result of those surgeries, and other trauma in their life, they are in constant physical and emotional pain. Without hope of relief, they’re now looking for a doctor who will help them die. Their hopelessness is tragic, and unnecessary.
In contrast, Jesus offers us real hope. Listen to what Titus wrote in his epistle. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” That’s Titus 2:11 to 14.
Did you notice from these verses where our hope comes from? It is centered around two appearances of Christ. The first one is in verse 11, “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” That’s the first coming of Christ when Jesus came into the world to provide salvation for us. Paul says in Ephesians 2:13 that prior to the coming of Jesus, we had no hope.
And the second part of our hope is in verse 13; “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is the second coming of Christ, our eternal glory! Notice that both comings of Christ impact our choices about the way we live.
Our study in Joel this time centers around the final verses of chapter two. In the Hebrew text, these verses form their own chapter, chapter three. With a sweep of his pen, Joel transports us into the distant future to the time of Christ’s Second Coming.
As I understand Scripture, this second coming of Christ occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation, and ushers in His one-thousand-year reign as outlined in Revelation 20:6. What Paul describes in First Thessalonians chapter four is the Rapture, where those who believe in Christ, whether dead or living, will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. We have no indication in Scripture that Jesus will “touch down” on earth during this event. But according to the prophet Zechariah, He will physically stand on the Mount of Olives at His Second Coming. You can read about that in the opening verses of Zechariah 14.
God, through Israel’s prophets, foretold an unprecedented future age of peace. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and others all spoke about this coming age. Wars, famines, floods, disease, and other effects of the curse will have no place in the Millennial reign of Christ. I will explain more of this as we proceed through our text.
So, follow along now as I read Joel 2:28 to 32. This is God’s Word to us.
In this text, God, through Joel, informs us of several distinct ACTIONS that will accompany the return of Messiah. These actions should provide both hope and comfort for us.
You may wonder how we can know that Joel is speaking about the Kingdom Age. First, Joel indicates it by his choice of words. “It shall come to pass afterward…” That’s pretty generic, pretty indefinite. But let’s look at how Peter identified this time more specifically in Acts 2:17. He was speaking in the context of the Holy Spirit being poured out at Pentecost. “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God…’” So, Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit connected Joel’s prophecy with the last days. He brings clarity to the indefinite expression in the Hebrew text,
This connection is illustrated in the 3rd chapter of Hosea. (I urge you to look at this when you have time.) In the first two verses of Hosea 3, the prophet speaks of Israel’s past, illustrated by his marriage to a prostitute. Verses 3 and 4 speak of Israel’s present situation of abiding many days “without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice…” And then, verse 5 refers to the future like this. “Afterward, shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.”
Let’s look now at the actions that will accompany the return of Messiah.
The First ACTION (that will accompany the return of Messiah) is,
The Spirit is Apportioned
“It shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit…” Let’s just stop right there, for now. We already noted that Peter adds to our understanding by adding the phrase “the last days” to Joel’s “afterward.” The last days refer to the period of time we are in right now. It’s the time between Pentecost and the second appearing or second coming of Christ to bring in the Kingdom Age. There the redeemed will live and reign with Him for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:6).
Joel prophesied that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Since Peter specifically quoted Joel’s prophecy, some Bible teachers understand that this prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost. But let’s look more carefully at what was happening in Acts chapter 2.
As the Holy Spirit was being poured out at Pentecost, those in the crowd heard the teaching of the apostles in their native languages. There’s a whole list of languages given. Some of the people were amazed and confused and they said, “What is going on?” But others mocked and said, in our modern terms, “These people are drunk.”
Then Peter stands up with the eleven and says, “No, these people aren’t drunk as you suppose, after all, it’s only 9 o’clock in the morning (the 3rd hour of the day). Now, let’s look carefully at what Peter said in response to those who were mocking. He does not say, as Jesus did in Luke 4:21,“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” I checked multiple translations of Peter’s statement and none of them imply that Pentecost fulfilled Joel’s prophecy.
Here’s how several translations express the idea. KJV – “This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel.” NKJV – “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” NIV – “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” And ESV – “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel.” Peter was saying to these scoffers, “Look, what you’re witnessing is similar to what the prophet Joel spoke about.” You’re free to disagree, but it seems clear to me that there is more to this outpouring of the Spirit than what happened at Pentecost.
Joel said the Spirit would be “poured out.” The Hebrew word, shaphak, implies the giving of something in great abundance. Think of a drenching rain or a spring that gushes clear, pure water seemingly without limit. Under the old covenant, the Holy Spirit was given sparingly, to only a few people and for specific acts of prophecy or service. Samson comes to mind, or Saul prophesying in I Samuel 19 when he was pursuing David, or Gideon in Judges 6:34.
There’s some disagreement about the meaning of the phrase “on all flesh.” Was the Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh at Pentecost? It depends on how you define the term. Some say, “No, the Spirit is only given to those who accepted Jesus as Messiah.” Others say, “Yes, all means every class of humanity and every nationality.” They support that by what Joel says about male and female servants and the fact that so many nations were represented in that crowd.
But if, by this phrase, Joel meant literally everyone, then the fulfillment must wait for a time when righteousness is experienced by all. It seems likely that the Holy Spirit will be present in all His fullness during the Millennial Kingdom, it will be a time unlike anything previously known to humanity.
God, through the prophet, Ezekiel, said to His people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” The Holy Spirit will control the life of each person and the fruit of His presence will be evident. We can hardly imagine what this will be like.
Joel said that the evidence of this outpouring would be that “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” In other words, the common people would speak under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, not just those designated as prophets, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others. The old men would receive revelation through their dreams while sleeping. The young men would be given visions during their waking hours. To be sure, some of these things were experienced in the early church but hardly at the level implied in the text.
Verse 29 begins with the words, “and also.” This is an emphatic addition to the previous statements in verse 28. It implies something extraordinary or unexpected. Servants were often captives from other people groups or fellow Jews who were so deep in debt that the only way they could pay what they owed was to become a bond slave. I think this highlights how economic and social status will be erased in that millennial kingdom.
But as we’ll see in our next action, there seems to be clear evidence that this wasn’t the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.